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8. Open Source Hardware - From Fibers to Fabric

This week was the first fully collaborative week in which we dove into building our own textile-related machine/mechanism. Our team consists of (me) Isa Biramontes, Noémie Carrier, Annie Ferlatte, and François Auclair.

Research & Inspiration

After talking through our options we decided on creating a loom, preferably an automated one. To start, we investigated what a loom was, its components, and how it can be automatized. Our main inspiration was using the technology from a music box; we can code a shape that'll allow us to move the needles, similarly to the bumps of a music box. Additionally, our inspiration came from the following project.

From there we all began our research to figure the mechanic behind this mythic manual machine. The following words are mentioned a fair bit- heddle, reed, and shuttle- for context and bettering understanding, the following diagram shows what those components are referring to:

This project was split across our team; I worked on creating the heddles, François worked on just the transformation of a 2D black and white picture into something that we can generate a shape, Noémie worked on the physical system of the shape, and Annie worked on the base structure of the loom.

"Music box" prototype and Grasshopper code

In this part, we talk a lot about petals, flowers, and bouquets simply to better understand each other…(images) we did struggle to invent names for each part!

Noémie and François were super excited about this new challenge in grasshopper! After a lot of brainstorms and failed attempts, we managed to do each one part of the code. Noémie created the basic shape and linked each “petal” to a boolean button and a colorful circle that shows the petal state; this meant that each heddle could be individually controlled. We went even farther, and François achieved wonders with reading images.

From home, (because of COVID-19 quarantining) I started making all the heddles as well as a 3D Cap that corresponded with Noémie’s “flower petals”. The idea being the top of the heddle would secure to a latch on its corresponding 3D cap. This cap when pushed by the flower, would also get pushed. One remaining issue was the sizing of the flower; ideally, we imagined the petals pushing directly the needles from under, so we had to make a difference of about 4 inches between the “petal” and “no petal” state. However, this meant we'd have about 80 giant flower components. The problem was still unsolved but at this point, Annie had found a way to simplify the file and create a cleaner geometric shape for this component. After researcing and thinking of potential solutions, we decided to made the heedles horizontally pushed rather than lifted. We continued and made adjustments so the shuttle had enough room to pass. Then we started to prototype!


After testing a big idea of Annie's, (ie multiple arms to connect everything, which while super exciting, she found out it wouldn’t work), we decided on a more traditional approach. On Fusion 360 she created a sandwich of 2 rails of ¼ in of plywood that can be stabilized with the perpendicular rod and added some gear so the plywood could be adjusted and the tension was retained. Drawings for the laser cutter were developed, a copy was made in grasshopper and other adjustments were added. François then prepared the file and used the laser cutter. Together, we glued and assembled the wood rods. Unfortunately, the rods weren't the same size, it was bending, and the rest of our components didn’t fit inside. Instead, we decided to do a CNC mill with a 3/4 inch HDPE where we added a base in the same material (this was made so in the future an electronic component can be placed). We then reassembled it with these new pieces and the structure was finally solid, parallel, and align.


Luckily, we were able to find an already made 3D file of a shuttle, which Noémie printed. The only adjustment made was that we scaled it up a bit so our thinnest model of bobbin could fit.


Since we only had a week for this assignment, we were quickly running out of time, so instead of the electronic loom we had in mind, we replaced the central/base mentioned earlier and we decided to finish it to be a manual loom.The reed was then designed to be in alignment with the hole created to receive the needles. Unfortunately, none of the team was able to pick up the needles I made, so instead a read was made. This reed had to have evenly distanced holes which Annie achieved after 2 iterations. Noémie made a system to hold the reed in place for each step, one position up and another one down, which was also done in 2 iterations. Noémie was the first to weave and her test taught us a few things.


First, we’d have to think of a way to fix the warp threads so they won't slide. While the machine's tension was good, it wasn't the same. Second, the reed was too wide to place the weft thread. It was still possible to do it by hand, but it takes some agile hands to do a regular length. Lastly, we’ll need to use bigger threads or reduce the size of the loom in general. Overall, the final model is a base stable enough for the user to weave without worrying too much about the reed falling but we'd love to make adjustments in the future.

Future goals

In a future iteration, we'd love to scale it to the size of a small bobbin, similar to the same one used for a sewing machine. Additionally, we'd love to return to the idea of an electronic component so the weave would be automatic.

Last update: January 13, 2021